Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, September 2020
Some American Jews are sharply condemning President Donald Trump's remarks that Israel is "your country" as anti-Semitic.
"We really appreciate you, we love your country also and thank you very much," Trump said during a call with American Jewish leaders on Wednesday.
"It's really important that we separate out American Jews and Israel — we are not one in the same. It's anti-Semitic to suggest that we are," said Sophie Ellman-Golan, a progressive Jewish strategist.
The outrage comes as Trump has made attempts to rally support from Jewish voters, which some have dismissed as "pandering" to his own base.
Some Jewish Americans are fiercely condemning President Donald Trump for repeating rhetoric they consider to be "textbook anti-Semitism."
During an annual White House conference call to honor the upcoming High Holidays on Wednesday, Trump told American Jewish leaders, "we really appreciate you, we love your country also and thank you very much."
The president's apparent suggestion that Americans are Israelis is similar to previous remarks Trump has made and sparked outrage over, including when he told an audience of Jewish Americans that Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is "your prime minister" and called Jews who are Democrats "disloyal."
Several American Jews and groups said they felt alarmed by Trump's language because it invokes age-old anti-Semitic tropes.
"Trump seems unable to grasp the simple fact that Jewish Americans are Americans, period," Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc-Jewish Action, a Jewish political action committee, said in a statement. "The implication that American Jews have some kind of 'dual loyalty' is textbook anti-Semitism, and has been used for centuries to demonize Jewish people and justify persecution and violence, including the Holocaust."
"Dual loyalty," which insinuates that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own home country, is widely known to be a pillar of anti-semitism.
"My initial reaction was visceral fear. It's really scary to see the president using that kind of rhetoric, but I also wasn't surprised," Becca Lubow, spokesperson for left-leaning Jewish activist group If Not Now, said. "Unfortunately for Trump, American Jews aren't going anywhere."
The comments also come ahead of important celebrations for the Jewish community, marking the start of the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur.
"We want to start our holiday, not worry that some other Pittsburgh shooter 2.0 is going to walk into a synagogue because he thinks that Jews don't belong here, which is not hypothetical," Abby Stein, an author and ordained rabbi said, referring to the October 2018 mass shooting that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people.
Trump, during the High Holidays call, shifted gears into campaigning and attempted to court the Jewish American vote by touting his support toward Israel.
The president's reelection team this week also launched a new initiative dubbed "Jewish Voices for Trump," aimed at rallying support from Jewish voters.
"I have to say this, whatever you can do in terms of Nov. 3 is going to be very important because if we don't win, Israel is in big trouble," Trump said. "This is really a time that's very important in the life of Israel and the safety of Israel. And we will do a great job."
Some American Jews criticized the gesture, signaling that their priorities are not explicitly equivalent to those of the Israeli government and that equating the two is harmful.
"It's really important that we separate out American Jews and Israel — we are not one in the same. It's anti-Semitic to suggest that we are," said Sophie Ellman-Golan, a progressive Jewish strategist. "When politicians treat Israel, including support for Israel, as a stand-in for Jews, that's what they're doing."
Many expressed concerns that such perceptions extend beyond the president, and reflects certain beliefs that members of the Republican Party hold, and some blasted Trump's efforts as merely dog-whistle appeals to his base.
"A lot of the right-wing support for Israel is inherently anti-Semitic coming from a point that all the Jews should go live there and leave us alone," Stein said. "It's not just that it's hateful rhetoric, it's the reality that it has led to millions of us, including my own ancestors, my own great grandparents, being killed."
"Trump was willing to say that on a Rosh Hashanah call because he's not speaking to Jews," Lubow said. "It's about pandering to his white Evangelical Christian base."
Oma Seddiq is a politics fellow for Insider. She previously worked as a digital producer for Politico and as an intern for Forbes. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2018 with a journalism degree.
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